Stimulus Bill + Preservation

Those who know me well (and to know me is to love me, am I right? :-) are aware that I have a horror of debt. I try very hard to live within my means, and I would like my government to try that as well. So it won’t come as any surprise when I say that I’m not particularly happy about the recent stimulus bill passed by Congress. But as someone I know once told me, as gently as he could: “Get over it!” Now that the bill is law, those of us who care about our historic buildings and who have anything to do with administering preservationlaw need to spend a little time figuring out the particulars of the gargantuan monster (ok, that was a biased statement, but as long as I state my bias, it’s ok. I think).

In addition to being afraid of debt, I’m also allergic to reading 1000-page legal documents, but I’m very thankful for people who are willing to spend time reading through such documents and reporting to the rest of us. Here are a few finds within the bill that these helpful people have passed on to me from their own careful reading:

A caveat: the Congressional Record and GPO sites are extremely confusing, and although I tried to link consistently to the same site, I think I did not succeed in that–sorry.

Section 106 will still apply

pages 256-257, in the HUD section state:

21 That in administering funds appropriated or otherwise
22 made available under this heading, the Secretary may
23 waive or specify alternative requirements for any provision
24 of any statute or regulationin connection with the obliga-
25 tion by the Secretary or the use of these funds except
1 for requirements related to fair housing, nondiscrimina-
2 tion, labor standards, and the environment), upon a find-
3 ing that such a waiver is necessary to expedite or facilitate
4 the use of such funds.

HUD Money can’t be used for demolitionof public housingand limits to funding for demolition:

Provided further, That funding used for section 2301(c)(3)(E) of the Act shall be available only for the redevelopment of demolished or vacant properties as housing: Provided further, That no amounts made available from a grant under this heading may be used to demolish any public housing (as such term is defined in section 3 of the United States Housing Act of 1937 (42 U.S.C. 1437a)): Provided further, That a grantee may not use more than 10 percent of its grant under this heading for demolition activities under section 2301(c)(3)(C) and (D) unless the Secretary determines that such use represents an appropriate response to local market conditions:

In fact, there are several sections in the HUD (Title XII) section that might have a bearingon historic buildings, including the lead abatement section–in my experience, the easiest way for lead abaters(if that’s a word) to remove lead is to remove all the trim and siding from the building–don’t laugh, I’ve seen it done.

Other areas of interest:
HISTORIC PRESERVATION FUND, only for Historically Black Colleges/Universities–the original $55 million designated for State Historic Preservation Offices was deleted in the final negotiations.

For an additional amount for `Historic Preservation Fund’, for
historic preservation projects at historically black colleges and
universities as authorized by the Historic Preservation Fund Act
of 1996 and the Omnibus Parks and Public Lands Act of 1996,
$15,000,000: /Provided,/ That any matching requirements otherwise
required for such projects are waived.

CONSTRUCTION, $ for NPS (p. H1321 of Congressional Record)

      For an additional amount for `Construction’, for repair and
restoration of roads; construction of facilities, including energy
efficient retrofits of existing facilities; equipment replacement;
preservation and repair of historical resources within the
National Park System; cleanup of abandoned mine sites on park
lands; and other critical infrastructure projects, $589,000,000.

Money for Federal Buildings (p. H1316 of Congressional Record)

LIMITATIONS ON AVAILABILITY OF REVENUE  (they’re limited to 5.5 billion–tough to live on that . . .)

For an additional amount to be deposited in the Federal Buildings Fund, $5,550,000,000, to carry out the purposes of the Fund, of which not less than $750,000,000 shall be available for Federal buildings and United States courthouses, not less than $300,000,000 shall be available for border stations and land ports of entry, and not less than $4,500,000,000 shall be available for measures necessary to convert GSA facilities to High-Performance Green Buildings, as defined in section 401 of Public Law 110-140:

If you’re still reading this far down, you should also check out the National Trust blog, where they discuss the school modernization funding, which decreased from $14 billion to $8.79 billion. My view is that too much money thrown at school buildings is almost as bad for preservation as not enough money–if there’s too much, in my experience, the school districts are more inclined to just demolish and build shiny new buildings, whereas if there’s a limited amount, they would look at repair and upgrade. So, yeah, I’m not complaining about $8.79 b-b-billion. If you think about it (and you should try not to), that’s about twice as much money as Mississippi received from Congress after Katrina to rebuild the whole Coast and areas inland–highways, public buildings, sewer systems, housing, etc. It’s a lot of money–and I think we still have some left over (but don’t tell anyone–we’re keeping it a secret).

Also, of course, there’s an in-depth discussion at Tom King’s CRM blog about the expedited Section 106 reviews that will be required, or not, for each of the funding items.

Now that you have this important info, you can get out there and spend your, your children’s, your grand-children’s, your great-grand-children’s (etc.) money! Yay! :-)

Categories: Historic Preservation, National Trust, Schools

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